A new book, being published by the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS) this month, traces life stories of 25 extraordinary men and women who excelled in various fields of science, technology and engineering.
Titled ‘Seekers and Builders of Our World: Inspiring Stories of 25 Scientists’, the 350-page book highlights the vital role of socially engaged scientists – those who unraveled mysteries of matter and life, tackled global problems like famine and disease, and shaped our modern world in different ways.
The book will be launched at the opening ceremony of SLAAS Annual Sessions at BMICH Colombo on 1 December 2014.
At the invitation of SLAAS, the book was authored by the award-winning science writer Nalaka Gunawardene. It was designed and illustrated by artist and cartoonist Dharshana Karunathilake.
The book was prepared under the guidance of an editorial committee comprising Prof Ramanee D Wijesekera, Prof Sagarika Ekanayake, Dr Manjula Vithanapathirana and Dr A M Mubarak. The book’s production cost was covered by a generous sponsorship from Holcim Lanka Limited.
“Publication of this book hopes to ignite an interest in young minds and engage the next generation of scientists early so that they can be a part of the knowledge base that we badly need to nurture in our country,” says Dr A M Mubarak, General President of SLAAS for 2014, in his foreword to the book.
Among those profiled in the book are biologists, chemists, engineers, mathematicians, physicists and information technology pioneers. Some of them made pioneering discoveries – such as antibiotics, radioactivity and relativity – while others were responsible for pushing the limits of knowledge, design and technology.
Particular focus has been given to childhood influences that inspired them to pursue scientific careers, as well as life challenges – including poverty, societal discrimination or disability — they overcame with hard work, resolve and imagination.
The 25 personalities (in alphabetical order) are: Norman Borlaug; Rachel Carson; Arthur C Clarke; Gamani Corea; Jacques-Yves Cousteau; Marie Curie; P E P Deraniyagala; Albert Einstein; Enrico Fermi; Steve Jobs; Robert Koch; A N S Kulasinghe; Wangari Maathai, Mario Molina; Linus Pauling; Qian Xuesen; C V Raman; Srinivasa Ramanujan; Wilhelm Röntgen; Abdus Salam; David Suzuki; Selman A Waksman; Ray Wijewardene; Edward O Wilson; and D J Wimalasurendra.
These names were chosen to inspire not only recent science graduates but also students in GCE Ordinary Level and Advanced Level classes and to promote a culture of research and spirit of inquiry.
“Engage Science, Enrich Society” has been the SLAAS theme for 2014. It sought to showcase the contribution science has made to human progress over the centuries. Through life stories of local and international scientists, the book reminds us that science is not an esoteric pursuit but very much a part of everyday life.
SLAAS is the premier organisation of professional scientists in Sri Lanka. Founded in 1944 and incorporated by Act of Parliament No 11 of 1966, it is a non-governmental and non-profit making voluntary organisation, with a vision to transform Sri Lanka to a “scientifically advanced nation”.
The book is being sold at a subsidised price of Rs 500. Limited copies will be available for sale from SLAAS office, “Vidya Mandiraya”, 120/10, Wijerama Road, Colombo 7, from December 5 onwards.